International competition to urban requalification of
Gwangbok Street and Piff Plaza - South Korea, 2005

Architects: Renato Cesar F. Souza (Brazil) and Insung Kim (South Korea)
Project awarded with honorable mention



Our project consists of eight movable gadgets.Each gadget, termed here “Robots”, includes 1 Laser projector, 1 display message board, 2 big screen televisions, 2 video cameras, and 3 of IBM’s Everywhere projectors. The aim of utilising laser projectors is to produce special visual effects in exhibitions and parades at night-time.

The luminous message-board broadcasts news about the activities in the street and its vicinity, information about local museums, events and so on. The television screens allow small clips, ads, footage of the place, real time sequences, and so on, to be watched. The video cameras gather material to be mastered and then broadcast via the Robots.

The IBM Everywhere projector combines projection with detection on an arbitrary surface such as a wall or the simple pavement. In this way the ground and walls become interactive, in effect, turning the surface into a crude wireless touch screen. Each Robot moves under rails over the street sustained by 34 structural portals.

The Robots are made of structural aluminium and a modelled polycarbonate. Moveable canopies can be adjusted by distance to protect the screens. This gadget is controlled by the Interaction Research Centre, situated inside the 4 towers along Gwangbok Street. But the interaction, position, movement and lights of the Robot can be modified by users accessing and interacting with an internet web site.

When the Busan International Film Festival is being held, or when otherwise required, the Robot can broadcast information, ads, clips, games and quizzes about the movies exhibited, interacting with the public and attracting their attention. Furthermore, the ability of these robots to cope with images is in congruence with the idea of the moving image; this idea is inherent in cinema, and in this way this innovation of able to enhance the sense of local ‘identity’ in the street, since the museum of cinema in Busan is one of the areas key attractions (if not the key attraction). Nevertheless, in order to act as a pervasive mechanism for declaring, representing, and querying the physical relationship between people, places, devices, and things, the Robot needs to be supported by an ongoing research project.

The Interaction Research Centre is an organization whose main preoccupation is designing, experimenting with and maintaining systems, software and hardware, in order to produce improvements in the interactive urban devices used at Gwangbok Street. It will cope with ubiquitous computing solutions at Gwangbok Street on a daily basis, possibly being the first centre concerned with this subject to be located in the very field of research itself. This idea was inspired by the argument propounded by Steve Shafer of Microsoft Research in his article “Ten Dimension of Ubiquitous Computing” (Shafer 1999). He stated that interactive ‘tuning’ is central to the ‘knowledge representation’ problems of the emerging generation of research. According to him, the main question for research nowadays is: how can we make the interactions between devices and people meaningful? The same question was posed by McCullough (2004):

“In contrast to a sense of place, consider places with senses. Smart spaces recognize at least something about what is going on in them, and they respond. Some of this built-in understanding now can reside in easily adaptable software, some can be implicit in occasionally reconfigurable arrangements of furniture like hardware, and some remains better off being built in. It is the interrelationship of these that needs design” (p.93)

So, the Research Centre is also concerned with implementing and ‘tuning’ the interactive devices deployed in Gwangbok Street. This ‘tuning’ is based on the incremental adaptation of configurations and settings based on a qualitative, top level interpretation of performance. In other words, ‘tuning’ takes into account incremental growth and change.

However, there are a number of questions that need to be addressed:
How are new devices added?
What model underlies the world in which all of these interoperate?
Must the whole system be rebalanced each time it incorporates another element?

So, if we project into the future, Gwangbok Street could end up having many specific devices and services, such as wearable locators for people, child-care aids, disability applications, intelligent urban appliances, survey systems for the shops, BBS exposed in open spaces, and other public utility services supported by both located and remote devices. Rather than just introducing a kind of “push-button” level of interaction, the Research Centre needs to translate the power of tuned interactions into the Gwangbok urban space by means of creative contextual developed widgets (all the time taking into account privacy and other policy considerations).

In short, our idea of interaction here is to design devices which make a claim to the actuation of the whole user body, so the Research Centre needs to specialize in ergonomic interfaces and haptics technology. The portal includes the streetlights and a luminous vertical message board which is made of painted steel. Since these look like gates - and more emphatically are to be used at night - we suggest giving the name “Gates of the Moon” to the portals. Gates and shapes on the ground will alleviate the tedious ambience produced by the chaotic scenery of contemporary city-scapes, and with the introduction of those interactive elements, we anticipate the emergence of new deals between shopkeepers, whilst the Research Centre will engage in redesign in order to improve facades and incorporate those features. One last point of our proposal involved removing a building in order to generate an open space near the Piff Plaza. This presents us with an opportunity to maintain both an unbroken continuity with Gwangbok Street and the view. For that reason, the design considers the inclusion of symmetrical lamps in order to mark ‘solemnities’ in the square, such as those related to the festival. A very simple design was suggested so as not to interfere in the spontaneous use of space. Therefore, we suggest using Piff Plaza to present a continuous programme of arts and artistic exhibitions related to the use and processing of images.


General views:



McCullough, M. (2004). Digital Ground: architecture, pervasive computing and
environmental knowing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT Press.
Rapoport, A. (1977). Human aspects of urban form : towards a man-environment
approach to urban form and design. Oxford ; New York, Pergamon Press.
Shafer, S. A. N. (1999). "Ten Dimensions of Ubiquitous Computing." Vision
Technology Group, Microsoft Research Retrieved Jan 2007, from
Souza, R. C. a. K., In Sung (2005). International Idea Competition on Urban Design
"Revitalization of Gwangbok Street and PIFF Plaza, Busan, Korea", Ministry of
Culture and Tourism of Korea and Busan Metropolitan City 04.